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Kamran Abbasi

Pakistan lost it in the middle of both innings

Their spinners exerted no pressure on India, and their batsmen largely brought about their own downfall

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi
15-Feb-2015
Younis Khan isn't quite the best candidate to open the innings  •  Getty Images

Younis Khan isn't quite the best candidate to open the innings  •  Getty Images

India always beat Pakistan in World Cups, but rarely is it so comprehensive. India's game was at a higher level, a song of greater purity, on a memorable night in Adelaide, when supporters created a thunderous sound. With the one-day rules favouring batsmen, India will hope that this win is a rousing overture to better days in Australia. Pakistan, by contrast, have much to rectify. Misbah-ul-Haq's team played a dirge. We have been here before, Pakistan fans will say, although usually with better quality to perform a rescue.
Virat Kohli, India's champion, built his country's total with a measured hundred, well supported by Suresh Raina's hitting and some tight bowling from India's attack. With Kohli in this majestic form, India will challenge strongly for that fourth semi-final spot behind South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Early World Cup results generally count for little, and this tournament in particular offers every opportunity for major nations to qualify for the quarter-finals. Pakistan may be a different prospect in a month's time, but they will need to work hard to find a winning strategy and improve their form.
Pakistan's unheralded pace bowlers excelled in this game, though, and do offer some hope. India were flying in their innings and were first kept quiet in the batting Powerplay and then at the death. Sohail Khan won one of the match balls with five wickets, but Wahab Riaz impressed most for his raw pace and accuracy, often bowling into a stiff breeze. If Mohammad Irfan can tidy up his follow-through, Pakistan will have a threatening pace attack. More work on finding a yorker length at the death, which their coach, Waqar Younis, was a master of, will also add to their potency.
Pakistan's troubles, however, began in the middle of India's innings. Runs came too easily, partly through some defensive captaincy and mostly because of the complete failure of the spinners to exert any pressure. Shahid Afridi bowled a poor line, but Yasir Shah was a bigger disappointment. The new legspinner followed Afridi's line and flatter trajectory, instead of pursuing flightier wiles. As a result, he barely spun a ball. The loss of Saeed Ajmal is acute, and the selection committee may regret overlooking him as a replacement for Mohammad Hafeez.
Indeed, another rookie spinner, Haris Sohail, threatened the most. His impact would have been greater had Umar Akmal grasped a straightforward chance off Kohli. Akmal's selection as wicketkeeper-batsman made sense until the emergence of Sarfraz Ahmed. Now every drop and missed stumping is a moment for breast-beating and deep regret. These major wicketkeeping blunders, a specialty of the Akmal brothers, have hurt Pakistan for many years. Sarfraz offers a break from the feudal system; the selectors must take the opportunity now.
A second urgent change needed is to do with Younis Khan's position in the batting order. Younis is struggling in one-day cricket and he isn't suited to opening. His best role is to rotate the strike, accumulate runs, and offer some stability alongside Misbah in the middle order. Younis typified the failure of Pakistan's batsmen in this game, who failed to show understanding of their job. Wickets were lost to poor shot execution, notwithstanding a shocking decision to dismiss Akmal when his forward prod barely tickled the Snickometer. Third umpire Steve Davis has an unlikely story to tell.
Once more, India deservedly emerge from a World Cup match with bragging rights. An end to this sequence of absolute domination never seemed likely all through this match, despite Misbah's best efforts. The formula was wrong against India, and Pakistan were especially poor in the middle of each innings. None of these problems are insurmountable, of course, but with a dearth of class, Pakistan's World Cup hopes depend on an old-fashioned redemption song of clever planning and determination.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. @KamranAbbasi